A weekend break in Rouen, France
Rouen (pronounced roo-ohn) is the capital of Normandy and is steeped in early European architecture. The city boasts some of the most beautiful buildings and churches in Europe. With its charming cobbled streets, half-timbered houses, the Notre-Dame Rouen Cathedral, and the striking Gros-Horloge astronomical clock, there is much to delight the senses in this city, which the Seine River flanks.
Why a weekend break to Rouen?
We have spent several long weekends in Rouen, which is close enough to drive from Kent without feeling exhausted upon arrival. The city is small and easy to navigate.
Rouen offers a lot of activities and attractions to visitors. You can explore different neighbourhoods by walking around the streets or joining a sightseeing tour. There are also plenty of options for dining and drinking in the many restaurants available throughout the city. Rouen is situated on the River Seine, providing a beautiful backdrop to your stay.
Folkestone to Calais via the Eurotunnel
Living on the Kent coast has its benefits, one of which is the easy access to Calais through Eurotunnel. You can easily purchase your ticket online from Eurotunnel le shuttle.
Upon arrival at the Eurotunnel, we use our pre-booked ticket to check in through the automated gatekeeper. We then proceed to the Victor Hugo terminal and wait for our assigned boarding letter to drive our car onto the train.
On the road to Rouen
When travelling to the city of Rouen from Calais, there are two routes that you can take. The first one is through A16, which is approximately 131 miles long and takes around 2 hours to reach the destination. However, the Péage tolls for this route will be €8.50. The second route is through A28, which is slightly longer at 140 miles adding a little more – 3+ hours. However, the Péage tolls for this route will only be €3.00. Both routes are easy to navigate, so you can choose the one that suits you better.
Parking in Rouen
When you reach Rouen, please keep in mind that there is a one-way system, which might be a little confusing. Some streets have electronic bollards that require a security code for access. You can find plenty of public parking areas throughout the city, but we recommend choosing one of the city centre hotels that offer private paid parking for security reasons.
Hotels in Rouen – our recommendations
Rouen, being a tourist city, has a wide range of good hotels that are conveniently located within proximity to major attractions, shopping centres, and restaurants. However, if you need a parking space at your hotel, you may have to search a little harder as some of the centrally located hotels do not provide parking facilities.
For a weekend break in Rouen, we highly recommend Hotel Mercure Rouen Centre Cathedrale or the more luxurious Hotel de Bourgtheroulde.
Hotel Mercure Rouen Centre Cathedrale
We visited the Mercure Hotel multiple times because of the exceptional service, comfortable accommodations, delicious breakfast, prime location, and affordable prices
The Mercure privilege upgrade
During our stay, we were offered an upgrade to a Mercure privilege room with a balcony offering a stunning view of the cathedral. It was worth paying a little extra for the privilege of enjoying the beautiful view and hearing the cathedral bells nearby.
The upgrade came with several added benefits, including a larger room, a bigger bed, high-speed internet, and a Nespresso machine, which we loved so much that we decided to purchase one online while still in Rouen.
Breakfast at the Mercure Hotel
The breakfast buffet at Mercure Hotel offers a wide variety of fresh food options, including bread, pastries, hot and cold meats, cereal, and fresh fruit. Additionally, you can choose from a full range of fresh juices, coffees, and teas. With so many delicious options available, you won't go hungry when you have breakfast at this hotel.
Mercure Hotel Rouen best rates
We have found that booking directly with Mercure Hotel provides us with the best rates. Additionally, hotels generally prefer direct bookings and tend to provide better service compared to third-party portals.
Mercure hotel location
The address of the hotel is:
Hôtel Mercure Rouen Centre Cathédrale
7 Rue Croix De Fer,
Rue des Arsins,
76000 Rouen, France
Hotel de Bourgtheroulde
Staying at the Hotel de Bourgtheroulde provides a unique and luxurious experience. The bedrooms are elegantly designed, with luxurious linens and stunning bathrooms featuring walk-in showers or wet rooms. The hotel pays great attention to detail, and comfort, and provides a high level of service that is expected from upscale accommodations. We were not disappointed and thoroughly enjoyed our stay.
Breakfast at the Bourgtheroulde Hotel
The breakfast buffet at Bourgtheroulde is exceptional. The menu comprises an array of dishes that cater to everyone's taste. You can help yourself and indulge in a royal breakfast fit for a king or queen until you are satiated. Additionally, the breakfast staff are very friendly, helpful, and attentive.
Bourgtheroulde spa treatments & cocktails
We made reservations for massages and face treatments at the spa, which was excellent and highly recommended. Guests have access to the indoor pool and gym as well. In the evening, the cocktail bar is a great place to unwind with a few (albeit pricey) drinks and there is live music to enjoy on occasion
Bourgtheroulde hotel location
The address of the hotel is:
Hotel de Bourgtheroulde, Autograph Collection
15 Pl. de la Pucelle,
76000 Rouen, France
Things to do in Rouen
Rouen is a city that beautifully blends the old and the new, with modern shops and businesses seamlessly integrated into its rich history. Walking through the streets of Rouen, one can easily transport themselves back in time and imagine what it would have been like to live in medieval Rouen.
Rouen Churches & Cathedral
During our initial visit to Rouen, I was taken aback by the many churches in such a small city. I spent hours exploring these grand gothic structures, contemplating the conditions that medieval churchgoers had to endure – I imagine it was often cold and damp. It made me wonder about the number of worshippers that must have existed to justify so many religious centres in the city.
During your weekend visit to Rouen, you should consider visiting some of the beautiful churches in the area. These include:
- Eglise Saint-Maclou, 7 Place Barthelemy
- Rouen Cathedrale, Notre-Dame, 3 Rue Saint-Romain
- Abbatiale Saint-Ouen, Place du General de Gaulle
- Eglise Saint-Jeanne-d’Arc (Joan of Arc), Place du Vieux Marche
Church of St Joan of Arc
L'église Sainte-Jeanne-d'Arc is the place where Joan of Arc is buried. Right outside the church, there is a small garden that marks the exact location where Joan of Arc was burned as a heretic.
When you visit Rouen, the church is an absolute must-see. Although the building is quite modern, it still retains its feel as a church, with magnificent stained glass windows that were originally from the church of St Vincent. St Vincent was destroyed by the Germans during a bombing raid in WW2.
Church of Joan of Arc location
The address of the Joan of Arc memorial and church is:
Place du Vieux Marché,
Musée des Beaux-Arts de Rouen
If you are a lover of art, then you won’t be disappointed by a trip to view some of the outstanding pieces at the Musee des Beaux-Arts in Rouen. It is said to have one of the most exceptional public collections in all of France, including masterpieces by Degas, Delacroix, Monet, and Gustave Moreau.
During our visits to Rouen, we make sure to set aside some time to enjoy the peace and tranquillity of the museum. There are always special exhibitions, as well as a gift shop and café, for us to enjoy.
Musée des Beaux-Arts location
The address of the Rouen Fine Arts Gallery is:
Musée des Beaux-Arts de Rouen
Espl. Marcel Duchamp,
76000 Rouen, France
Aitre Saint-Maclou (Ossuary of Saint-Maclou)
From the beauty of art to something a little more sinister.
After visiting the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Rouen, we arrived at a courtyard filled with ancient sculptures that depicted the devastating effects of the plague that swept throughout Europe in the year 1348. This area served as a makeshift cemetery for those who succumbed to the disease during the epidemic. The Gothic sculptures accurately portrayed the suffering and turmoil that the people endured during this tragic time in history.
Visiting the burial site of the victims of the Great Plague in Rouen may seem eerie, but it's worth adding to your weekend itinerary. In 1348, the Black Death claimed the lives of three-quarters of the area's inhabitants, and the site serves as a reminder of this tragic event that affected thousands of people.
The black death in Rouen
We saw an old shop at the entrance of the Courtyard that resembled the shops and businesses of Rouen from the 1300s.
As you walk into the central courtyard of the Aitre Saint Maclou, you will see gruesome carvings of macabre objects of skulls, bones, femurs, shovels and other burial instruments that adorn the exterior of the buildings. Most of the bones were moved to Mont Gargan cemetery on Cote Sainte-Catherine in 1780 – when France banned urban burial sites.
In March 2016, archaeologists discovered additional skeletons and bones under the central courtyard, which is now a memorial to the victims.
Keep your eyes open as there are a few surprises to be seen!
Rouen Christmas Market
If you happen to be in Rouen during the Christmas season, you should pay a visit to the Traditional Christmas Market. The market is located outside the Rouen Cathedral, where traders offer their artisanal sweets, mulled wine and cider, handmade Christmas decorations, gifts, and other seasonal treats.
As the afternoon turns into evening and the sky darkens, the brightly lit market stalls become even more inviting, offering delicious and warming Christmas specialities.
Eat & Drink Your Way Around Rouen
No weekend break in Rouen would be complete without sampling some of the inviting local restaurants and cafes. Here are a few of our favourite Rouen eateries:
Looking for a great spot to grab some coffee or enjoy a healthy breakfast or brunch at an affordable price? Look no further than Citizen Coffee! This cosy café offers a variety of delicious dishes, including our personal favourite, the Avocado Toast. You can also choose from a variety of tasty sides to mix and match to your liking. Yum!
The coffee at Citizen Coffee is top-notch and served in large cups to keep you going throughout the day. The décor is simple yet stylish, and the relaxed vibe makes it the perfect spot to hang out anytime.
Please note that Citizen Coffee can get quite busy, so there may be a short wait for a table. However, we assure you that it is well worth the wait! Don't hesitate to visit and see for yourself what makes Citizen Coffee so special.
Citizen Coffee location
Citizen Coffee is open Monday – Saturday from 9.00 – 19.00. Their address is:
4 Rue de l'Écureuil,
Payiz – Lebanese restaurant
During our first visit to Rouen, we were exploring the streets and stumbled upon a delightful Lebanese restaurant called Payiz. This family-run establishment is centrally located and offers a warm and friendly welcome, excellent service, and some of the best Middle Eastern cuisine in Rouen.
All the dishes served at Payiz are freshly made in their kitchen, including the refreshing tabbouleh, creamy hummus, freshly baked bread, juicy and perfectly seasoned kebabs, and falafel. You can treat your taste buds to some excellent Lebanese and Persian cuisine at Payiz.
Payiz is open for lunch and dinner Monday – Saturday. Their address is:
9 Rue de l'Hôpital,
There are a few sushi restaurants in Rouen, but if you're looking for the best quality, value for money and ambience, I highly recommend Fujiya Sushi on Rue Sainte-Croix-des-Pelletiers.
They have a large and varied selection of freshly prepared sushi and sashimi, as well as hot dishes and accompaniments. The portions are quite generous, so order wisely and not overdo it. The service is usually quick, even during busy times, although it's not a place where you'll receive a lot of personal attention. However, the sushi is great, so it's worth a visit.
Fujiya Sushi location
Fujiya Sushi is open for lunch and dinner Monday – Sunday. Their address is:
14 Rue Sainte-Croix-des-Pelletiers,
Millésime – winebar and restaurant
During a weekend break in Rouen, no visit can be complete without stopping by our favourite wine bar, Millésime. It's a special place that we discovered on our first trip to Rouen and an absolute must-visit for wine enthusiasts. If you're unfamiliar with wine, the owner, Phillipe Valet, will gladly share his expertise with you. Phillipe is French-born, with some time spent in Australia, and a great character who genuinely loves what he does and always makes his guests feel welcome.
The best burger in Rouen
And, if you're looking for a delicious burger in Rouen, Millésime has got you covered with one of the best in town. You can find Phillipe and his team in the heart of downtown Rouen.
Millésimeis is open for dinner Monday – Saturday. Their address is:
26 Rue du Vieux Palais,
Bar des Fleurs – no-frills brasserie – great omelettes
Bar des Fleurs on Place des Carmes is a simple ‘no-thrills' brasserie/café/bar that is much loved by the locals in Rouen. The casual eatery is open seven days a week, which is a rare occurrence in the city. Their extensive menu offers a range of traditional French dishes, mostly served with fries. However, the Cheese and Ham Omelette and Frites are a must-try. The portions are generous, and the service is usually quick. Bar des Fleurs takes a no-nonsense approach and focuses on the basics, making it an excellent choice for anyone looking for a simple yet satisfying meal.
Bar des Fleurs location
Bar des Fleurs is open from 9 am. Their address is:
Bar des Fleurs
36 Place des Carmes,
Restaurant des Beaux-Arts – Moroccan
If you are in the mood for a comforting home-cooked meal, Les Beaux Arts on Rue Damiette is the perfect place for you. You will be delighted to taste the delicious Moroccan flavours created in the Beaux Arts kitchen. The tender and perfectly prepared meat dishes will melt in your mouth and there are also plenty of vegetarian options to choose from. The portions are generous and the prices are reasonable. In addition to the scrumptious food, the staff is friendly and polite, providing excellent customer service.
Restaurant des Beaux Arts location
Restaurant des Beaux-Arts is open for lunch and dinner Monday – Saturday. Their address is:
Restaurant des Beaux Arts
34 Rue Damiette,
76000 Rouen, France
Michelin Star Restaurants in Rouen
There are many exceptional, high-end restaurants in Rouen including the 2 Michelin star restaurant Gill, 1 Michelin star L’Odas, and the 1 Michelin star Restaurant Rudolphe. Why not add these to your restaurant list next time you visit Rouen?
That's it for our weekend break in Rouen
Well, now we’ve done all the research – isn’t it time to review your calendar and find an appropriate date for that long weekend break in Rouen?
We thoroughly enjoyed our time in the city and now know it very well. Getting around is easy, and you don't need a car since most places are within walking distance. If you do want to venture out of town, Paris is only a 1.5-hour car ride away. Just hop on the motorway, and you'll be there in no time.
But for now, Rouen is calling. We hope you have a wonderful trip to Normandy and enjoy it as much as we do every year. Happy travels!